Don’t Let a Full Calendar Derail Fitness

The email cordially invited me to a mandatory parent’s meeting. Our daughter is graduating from high school soon and the meeting was about the final few weeks, which includes a special senior class trip and graduation.

Welcome to Spring!

For many years now, I whine about how busy life gets in April, and especially May. The calendar fills up pretty fast and my margin shrinks just as quickly. As much as I love the change from cold to warmth, I don’t look forward to how much I have to do. 

When all of our children were still at home a lot of the busyness came from spring sports and the never ending shuttle to practice and games. That has quieted down in recent years, but there’s still a lot more begging for my attention than just a couple months ago.

The grass is growing so that is now a weekly job. I installed a privacy fence in the back yard and that took a healthy chunk of time last week. We’re planning a massive yard sale soon and preparation is underway for that, plus the activities and meetings are ramping up as the school year starts to wind down.

Are you feeling the same schedule creep? The activities and commitments may be different, but is your calendar getting crowded? When that happens, what gives? What do you stop doing to fit everything in?

Life can get pretty distracting at times…and distractions don’t cohabit well with fitness. This is especially true if you are still trying to make fitness a part of your lifestyle. If you feel the tension between an overbooked calendar and fitness here are three things that could help you win this battle.

Schedule Fitness Activities in Non-Vulnerable Time

Part of my fitness plan is a daily high-intensity cardio workout. It’s a 20 minute jump-rope improvisation. That’s a fancy way of saying I do a jump rope workout without the rope. I do it at home, in a basement “gym” that simply doesn’t have the room for a moving rope. But, the intensity is the same.

This workout is the first thing I do every day. It helps me wake up, pushes my heart rate pretty high, and gives me a nice head start on my 20,000 steps for the day. (Read more about my 20k One Year Step Challenge HERE)

I’m able to get most of my steps by being more intentional about moving all day long. It’s a great way fitness as become part of my lifestyle. But, this short cardio workout requires a specific chunk of time every day. And, I don’t want to battle calendar creep to get it in. That’s why first thing in the morning is perfect. It’s a part of my day that is not vulnerable to distraction.

Because my alarm goes off at 2:20a there is never anything that competes for this chunk of time. I’ve never missed this workout because someone wanted to get together for coffee, or I had to work later than usual, or a special school meeting or activity required my attendance.

Before I discovered the power of walking for fitness I belonged to a gym and stopped there several times a week on my way home from work. The habit didn’t stick because that time of day was very vulnerable to distractions. It became pretty easy for me to miss a workout because there was another demand on my time. Those distractions made it very hard to create a fitness habit at the gym.

Is there a time of day that isn’t vulnerable to distractions for you AND works for your personality. I’m a morning person so getting up early isn’t a problem. Conversely, I could never do fitness at time even if I never had to worry about other things competing for that block of time. What’s that non-vulnerable time of day that you can commit to fitness activity?

Discover the Power of NO

The word NO can either be your strongest weapon or greatest enemy as you establish a fitness lifestyle. It’s your enemy if you keep saying no to fitness. Usually that happens when we start to make excuses to miss a workout or reach a step goal.

Conversely, the word NO is a powerful weapon when we use it to keep our schedule clear of distractions. It’s also a hard word to use. Saying NO to yourself is the very essence of self-discipline. Saying NO to others can be even harder because it feels harsh.

I have learned the hard way that I can not cheat on sleep. I need to be in bed at 8pm. As you can imagine, this is not always easy to do…especially as the weather warms up and the sun sets later and later. For many months I’m going to bed while there is still daylight streaming through my bedroom window. Yuck!

Almost every night I have to say NO to myself and others so I can climb in bed at 8p. Last Wednesday night my favorite hockey team was playing Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs. The game started at 730p. I really wanted to watch the game. I said NO to myself.

That parents meeting would have kept me out past 8p. I sent an email to the school administrator respectfully letting him no that I would be attending, but would have to leave at 730p. I had to say NO to someone else. 

Saying NO to distractions that prevent me from getting to bed at 8pm is also protecting my cardio workout the next morning. Neither the hockey game nor the meeting would have infringed on that workout time, but getting enough sleep is an important component of establishing a lifestyle of fitness. It’s my job to protect that and NO is the way to do that.

Learning how to say NO is hard. I don’t do it perfectly, but I do it better than I used to. If you struggle with saying NO, I would suggest you find at least one opportunity each day to appropriately say NO to yourself of someone else. It actually gets easier the more you do it and the power you gain by taking back control of your schedule and yourself is pretty incredible.

Engage Your Motivation

Sometimes life comes at you so fast you don’t have time to sort it all out. That’s how spring often feels. Even with a schedule that has some margin and intentionality this is a season that can quickly overwhelm you.

At that parent meeting I learned of a couple things that Ava and I need to do over the final few weeks of Emma’s school year. These are actually pretty great opportunities to bless our daughter, but they involve some significant time that I wasn’t planning on.  They get added to everything else on the calendar.

There are now lots of things competing for my attention and time. And, because it can ALL feel urgent I am distracted from those things that may not be as urgent, but are more important. I believe fitness falls in this category…important, but not urgent.

What often happens is the urgent stuff crowds out the important stuff and before you even realize it, fitness is not happening.

Take a breath and remember why you are pursuing fitness. What is your deep why? I’ve learned that what truly motivates me guides my actions. But, sometimes I have to re-engage that motivation.

I put up a privacy fence last week. I don’t enjoy projects around the house anymore. I did it for so long I think I simply burnt myself out. But, I struggle with paying someone else to do what I can still do…even if I don’t want to.

For years we’ve talked about putting this fence on one side of our patio that is exposed to other houses. It’s something Ava and I both want and it will increase our enjoyment of this outdoor space. I decided over the winter (again!) to finally get it done this spring.

But, with everything else going on it was becoming easy to put the project off….to kick the can down the road again. That’s what happened last spring when I was going to do it. It got distracted right off my to-do list.

But, this spring I approached it differently. It wasn’t about making the time or even saying no to other things. This year it was all about re-engaging my motivation…remembering what it’s like sitting on that patio without the fence. That motivation was deep enough to compel me to do something I really didn’t want to do.

What’s your motivation for fitness? Re-engage your deepest “why” for fitness so it won’t be distracted off your schedule as the calendar fills up.

The Goal is Fitness Lifestyle

When fitness becomes more than a habit, it is less vulnerable to getting pushed aside by the distraction of spring (or any season). But getting to that point takes time and can feel overwhelming.

Coming later in May you will have a unique and fun opportunity to take your fitness journey to a new level…a level that can help withstand the distractions of life.

I’ll be rolling out details in a few weeks. If you click FOLLOW (below on your phone…to the right and above on your computer) you won’t miss a thing.